Court sends strong message to fisherman sentenced for false reporting

Media contact: James Sygrove

A Tauranga based commercial fisherman and skipper has been convicted for misreporting over 15 tonnes of fish and sentenced to seven months home detention and 200 hours of community service.

Gary Robert Mitchell appeared in the Tauranga District Court yesterday and was found guilty of five charges under section 231 of the Fisheries Act for knowingly making a false statement in a fishing return for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under the Act.

The offending relates to five fishing trips undertaken by Mr Mitchell in the Bay of Plenty between 20 August and 30 September 2012, where he carried out what is known in the fishing industry as "trucking". Trucking is the catching of fish in one Quota Management Area (QMA) and falsely reporting it as having been caught in another QMA for financial benefit. In just over five weeks of commercial long lining, Mr Mitchell misreported over 15 tonne of Ling. 

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) District Compliance Manager for Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Brendon Mikkelsen says, "MPI is happy with the court’s decision as it sends the message that offending of this nature will not be tolerated.”

“A total disregard for the Quota Management System as revealed by this investigation places fish stocks at risk of overfishing. Accurate information provided by commercial fisherman on their returns is essential for managing commercial fisheries and making sure they are sustainable”

"Fishery Officers and Investigators will continue to focus on accurate and timely fishery reporting to ensure the integrity of the New Zealand Quota Management System and the ongoing sustainability of the Bay of Plenty fishery". 

Mr Mikkelsen encourages any industry members and non-commercial fishers to report any suspected illegal activities or practices, by phoning 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are kept confidential if necessary.

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